AD COUNCIL SEEKS WAIVER ON MARIJUANA GROUP RULING

Wants Identifying Tag Line Left Off White House Anti-Drug Ads

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WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- The Advertising Council has formally asked the Federal Communications Commission to waive any requirement that would force television broadcasters to label millions of dollars of public service ads as "paid for
Photo: AP..
Pro-marijuana group targets anti-drug TV content.
by the White House anti-drug office."

The issue has been raised by an FCC response to a December petition filed by the National Organization for Normalization of Marijuana Laws (NORML). The pro-marijuana group wants TV programming that is aired as part of White House anti-drug efforts to be tagged with special labels.

In a decision that initially received little notice, the FCC agreed and ruled that when broadcasters air programs they know will get credit toward meeting the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy's matching requirements, the programming must be labeled as sponsored by the White House drug office.

In the petition to the FCC filed late Wednesday, the Ad Council said that labeling public service ads "White House sponsored" would confuse messages, threaten their effectiveness and raise some issues on whether the ads qualify for low-talent and production rates given public service spots.

Broadcasters air the public service ads as part of a requirement to provide free ads or similar content for every ad bought by the White House drug office. The White House decided to use the public service ads instead of drug office ads for the match to ensure that broadcasters didn't bounce other public service ads to make room for the drug office spots.

More than $100 million worth of the free public service ads air annually. Meanwhile, the drug office also buys print media ads as part of its $150 million ad budget.

The paid ads feature creative from the Partnership for Drug Free America, but broadcasters get a monthly reel of public service announcements from other groups they can choose from to match the paid ads. The public service ads, which feature creative loosely related to drug issues, are picked by the Ad Council nationally and by the American Advertising Federation in local markets.

ABC and CBS sound warning
ABC and CBS have reportedly warned the Ad Council that without a decision by the FCC, the networks will either have to label the public service announcements or replace them with bonus runs of the ads that were produced for the White House drug office.

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